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Employers prepare for lost labor

National Guard members activated to service have responsibilities to their employers, and employers have responsibilities also according to labor officials, but help is available.

"Federal laws provide protection to National Guard and Reserve members called to active duty when they must leave their civilian jobs to serve," said Robert D. Franks, assistant director of the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. "We are here to explain those rights and responsibilities to the activated members, and can also provide help and guidance to the employer in understanding theirs at no charge to them whatsoever."

The law, called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, of USERRA, comes from Title 38, chapter 43 of U.S. Code. VETS is responsible for administering and enforcing the law.

"We are explaining to the activated members that they must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to fall under the protection of the law," said Franks. "They must have notified their employer of their service in advance, unless notification is precluded by military necessity, or some other factor beyond their control."

Franks said another requirement is that the member's cumulative record since starting the civilian job must not exceed five years.

"This can be confusing, and there are exceptions to this also," he said. "Normal drills and annual training do not count toward the limit, nor do duties performed as a result of presidential authority, such as is being used for this operation."

Employees must also apply for reemployment in a timely manner following release from active duty.

"Application deadlines depend on the length of service," said Floyd Atkins, ombudsman for the Alabama Second District, with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). "For less than 31 days activation, employees must generally report to work at the next normal shift following release, travel home and eight hours rest.

"For 31 to 180 days, a the employee has a 14-day timeframe to apply for reemployment. For more than 180 days, an allowance of 90 days is provided," Atkins said.

Employees and employers needing more information on this law can get help by calling the U.S. Department of Labor at their Montgomery office at 334-242-8116, or the ESGR, toll-free at 800-336-4590.